The Secular Coalition for America’s annual Lobby Day and Secular Summit will take place June 12-14, and they have now announced that Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) will be joining Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse as keynote speakers:
Rep. Holt is a strong defender of the separation of religion and government. He serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce as well as the Committee on Natural Resources, where he is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. One of his top priorities is developing new energy sources and eliminating U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Holt has twice presented Congressional resolutions to recognize February 12th as National Darwin Day, arguing that the recognition of scientific advancement is paramount for the nation.
Holt announced in February that he would not be running for re-election later this year. It’s too bad. Despite being Congress’ sole Quaker, Holt has been a defender of church/state separation and a friend to Humanists.
As the American Humanist Association’s Matthew Bulger wrote earlier this year,
Rush Holt is truly the nonbeliever’s congressman, even though he himself professes to be a Quaker. Holt has shown that a scientist can be just as effective (or even more so) as a politician than someone who previously worked as a lawyer or minor government official. He has shown us that scientific thinking does have its place in public policy, and that people of all religious beliefs and of no belief should be included in the political process. While he certainly deserves a reprieve from the constant partisan bickering and antagonism of Congress, his presence in the House will be sorely missed.
As for Rep. Lee, her connection with the SCA comes via legislation on which they worked together:
In December, the Secular Coalition helped draft legislation introduced by Congresswoman Lee. The bill would shift $50 million from abstinence-only education to medically accurate sex education.
Since 1996, the U.S. has spent over $1.75 billion in federal funding for abstinence-only programs that do not include information on how to prevent unintended pregnancy or STI’s including HIV. The bill, HR 3774, the “Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act of 2013” would end federal funding of abstinence only until marriage programs. The Secular Coalition worked closely with Rep. Lee’s office in crafting language for the legislation.
How closely, we don’t know, but the legislation hasn’t gone anywhere yet. It still sits in committee.
This is the second time the SCA has had top-level politicians at their annual event. Last year, both Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) spoke to the attendees.
If you’d still like to be a part of the event, it’s not too late to sign up. Registration closes on June 1. As someone who’s done it before, I can tell you it’s educational and worthwhile. Take advantage of this if you can!